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Things Female Physicians Get Asked That Our Male Colleagues Don’t

After 13 grueling years of College, Medical School, Residency, and finally fellowship I was ready to go out into the world and find my very first job as a physician. Time to finally start changing the world! Not to mention begin paying back some of those student loans! I was eager, scared, and absolutely ready to get out there and see how all of my personal sacrifice would finally pay off! I am married to a wonderful man who is also a physician and who had, just 1 short year before me, gone through the interview and negotiation process of securing his first job as an attending physician. Someone had gone before me and I soaked up every bit of advice he had to give!

Unfortunately, I encountered a much different process in securing my first job. During my interviews, I was asked several times, by both male and female physicians, at both academic and private practice institutions, if I had children. My answer was simply no. I always wanted to elaborate, “I put my personal life on hold in order to excel in my field and honestly had not yet started to want children.” However, just a simple no was all that question merited. This question caught me off guard every single time it was asked. Five of the eight places I interviewed at asked if I had children, and given that my answer was no, there was an automatic follow up question of, “Are you planning on having children?” Immediately, a million thoughts flew through my mind, “Whoa, we just met. I don’t think my husband was ever asked this? I want kids someday, but not now. If they anticipate me getting pregnant soon will they not hire me? Do they consider me less of a woman if I say no?” Little did each and every individual that asked me this question know that they had not only asked a deeply personal question that my husband had never been asked, but they also acted completely inappropriately during a professional interview. How did my personal plans to reproduce effect my ability to do my job as a physician? Once, I was even asked if I was pregnant because I had inquired about the practice’s maternity leave policy. The male physician in the room visually inspected me with his eyes in a sweeping motion from head to toe to see if I looked pregnant as he asked this disturbing question. No!!!!!! I was not pregnant, nor was I planning to be at that exact moment, maybe someday, but not now. One of his follow up questions was disturbing in that he asked, “Why would you want to work full-time after you have children?” I was livid and thankful that the other female in the room, the office manager, replied “Why wouldn’t she? After all that schooling she has been through, why wouldn’t she?”

Suffice it to say, I was deeply disheartened by this experience and really appreciated my male and female colleagues that did not ask these questions. Finally, I signed with a company that not only treated me with respect and dignity on my interview, but also seemed to value me as a physician and a person. In my opinion, this was worth its weight in gold.

Anonymous, SheMD

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